All the Documentation That You Will Need to Travel With Your Tortoise

All the Documentation That You Will Need to Travel With Your Tortoise

Traveling from one country to another with a pet is likely to need you to follow procedures to comply with the law comprehensively. Traveling with a pet tortoise is just the same, and it is worth getting all your paperwork in place before making your travels and below we help you with all the documentation that you will need to travel with your tortoise.

What documentation you need to travel with a tortoise will vastly change depending on the destination you are heading. Some countries will require documents, and others like Australia will not allow entrance into their country with a tortoise. It is worth checking the requirements of your destination country before you travel.

Ok, so there is a simple answer, but we need to look at why countries need the paperwork. Also, we take a look at the documentation some popular flight destinations require.

Why Do I need Paperwork?

The main reason most countries will require you to have documentation for your tortoise or any animal for that matter. Will be disease control and not wanting to introduce foreign parasites that could dramatically damage their ecosystem. The UK allowed the grey squirrel into their country from the USA; this leads to devastation in their native red squirrel population, driving it to near extinction.

Countries want to avoid this from happening as animals can wipe out native species by being more dominant and carrying a disease.

The next reason most countries require you to get some documentation for bringing a live animal into the country. So, you are solely responsible for the tortoise while in their country; you will then be held accountable for it remaining captive and house in a way that it doesn’t infect the native animal population. Some documents will also make you aware that you should in no circumstances should you sell your tortoise.

Traveling to Europe With a Tortoise

Depending on where you are traveling from will have a significant bearing on what you need to enter a European country with a tortoise. Here we look at two prevalent destinations with travels, both France and the UK.

You cannot release your tortoise into the wild within the UK, and you must agree not to sell your tortoise while there. You would require a CITES certificate if your tortoise is on the endangered species list showing you obtained it legally.

If you are traveling to France with a tortoise, they allow you to travel into the country with less than five reptiles. However, you must report it to the customs service and make a declaration. You will also need a health certificate issued by a vet issued within one to five days before travel.

The biggest obstacle you are most likely going to need to overcome traveling to the UK is your travel company. You will need to fly or get a boat into the UK, so knowing if your travel company offers live animal travel would need to be checked. The same goes for other European countries you will always need to check your travel providers.

Traveling Within the USA With a Tortoise

The Leopard tortoise, African spurred tortoise, Bell’s hinge back tortoise are three tortoises not allowed in any circumstance to be imported or brought into the USA. Any tortoise with shell length (carapace) less than 4″ may NOT be imported for commercial purposes.

To stay within the law, you will need to contact the CDC to ensure everything is done correctly.

Can I take my tortoise to Australia?

Unfortunately, if you want to take a tortoise to Australia, you will be out of luck. Tortoises are not permitted to be imported as pets to Australia; the only tortoise allowed to enter are under rigorous zoological purposes. There are very few animals that are allowed to enter Australia legally.

Australia is well known for having stringent border controls, and tortoises are high on the list, not permitted.


Depending on your final location, traveling with a tortoise may require you to place your tortoise into quarantine. Quarantine is there to allow the country to detect any infections or parasites your animal may be carrying before officially being allowed into the country. The country you are entering will have the final say whether or not your tortoises pass quarantine.

Quarantining when required in most cases is not a short period and will typically last around a month. If you plan just a short trip, it may not be possible to take your tortoise if necessary.

Traveling into Europe and you should not be required to quarantine your tortoise. However, you will need the CITES document to show your tortoise has been obtained legally.

Do Tortoises Need an Animal Passport?

You are unlikely to need an animal passport for your tortoise as they are generally used for dogs and cats. Animal passports are to show that your animal has had the rabies vaccination. With tortoises being unable to carry rabies, they are generally not needed for tortoises.

The EU doesn’t require any animal passport for tortoises; however, you need the CITES documents to travel with a tortoise.

If you are traveling between state lines within the USA, you will need something similar to an animal passport. The Leopard tortoise, African spurred tortoise, Bell’s hinge back tortoise are three tortoises that will need documentation to cross state lines. These three tortoises are thought to more likely carry pathogens that can be passed to livestock.

If you are crossing state lines with your tortoise, it is advisable to contact the CDC to make sure you are not falling foul of the law.

Traveling With a Tortoise Isn’t Generally Recommended

Ok, so traveling with your tortoise is possible, and a lot of research will be needed to be undertaken not to fall foul of the law before we travel. However, we must ask ourselves is it wise to do so. We never want to make a habit of it, as tortoises don’t like the stress of moving. Relocating should be the only time you need to travel with your tortoise.

Traveling is such an unnatural thing for a tortoise to do. Think about how you travel; all the vibrations and movement will put your tortoise under undue stress.

As tortoises owners and the thought of giving our tortoise to a boarding home to look after feels us with dread. However, it may be the kindest thing we could do for our tortoises than traveling with them.

If a boarding house doesn’t fit with you, then a few weeks before you go on holiday, see if a friend can look after your tortoise for you. Take the weeks before you go on holiday to let your friend get to know your tortoise and how to care for them correctly.

You may even be lucky to find a local animal sitter that you can get to know. You may feel a lot more comfortable leaving your tortoise with them while you go on your holiday.